The Great Artiste (B-29)

The Great Artiste was the US Army Air Corps Silverplate B-29 bomber which escorted the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. For the Hiroshima bombing mission, the Great Artiste carried the instrumentation that measured atomic bomb blast and the redioactivity levels. Prior to the August 6 mission, it had been assigned to the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Composite Group, that participated in the atomic bomb attacks on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In Hiroshima mission, it was flown by Major Charles W. Sweeney.

The Great Artiste was built at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Plant at Omaha, Nebraska, (B-29-40-MO 44-27353, victor number 89), and was delivered to the Army Air Corps on April 20, 1945, and flown by crew C-15 to Wendover Army Air Field, Utah, in May. It departed Wendover for Tinian on June 22 and arrived on June 28. Originally, the Great Artiste had been assigned the victor number 9 but on August 1 was given the circle R tail markings of the 6th Bomb Group as a security measure and had its victor changed to 89 to avoid misidentification with actual 6th BG aircraft. It had its nose art painted after the Nagasaki mission, and the name purportedly referred to undisclosed talents of the bombardier, Capt. Beahan.

On the mission to bomb Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, it was to have been the aircraft carrying the bomb, but the mission schedule had been moved forward two days because of weather considerations and the instrumentation had not yet been removed from the aircraft. To avoid delaying the mission, Sweeney traded airplanes with the crew of Bockscar to carry the Fat Man atomic bomb to Nagasaki. The crew of Captain Frederick C. Bock flew The Great Artiste to Nagasaki on its instrument support mission, and landed with it on Okinawa at the conclusion of the mission.

The Great Artiste crew for the Hiroshima mission

Maj. Charles W. Sweeney, aircraft commander
1st. Lt. (Charles Donald) Don Albury, pilot
2nd Lt. Fred Olivi, co-pilot
Capt. James Van Pelt, navigator
Capt. Raymond "Kermit" Beahan, bombardier
Cpl Abe Spitzer, radio operator
Master Sgt. John D. Kuharek, flight engineer
Staff Sgt Ray Gallagher, gunner, assistant flight engineer
Staff Sgt Edward Buckley, radar operator
Sgt. Albert Dehart, tail gunner

Project Alberta members on Hiroshima mission:

Luis Alvarez
Harold Agnew
Lawrence H. Johnston

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  2. [...] time from Japan. The Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, was escorted by two other B29s. The Great Artiste, commanded by Major Charles W. Sweeney, carried instrumentation, and Necessary Evil, which carried [...]